Father Michael Bolesta
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Suits filed: 2005
Assigned as follows:
- 1989-1991: SS. Philip/James (Exton, PA)
- 1991-1992: Immaculate Conception (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1992-1994: St. Agatha/St. James (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1994-2004: Holy Redeemer Health Systems – Chaplain Office
- 1994-2004: Residence (Huntingdon Valley, PA)
Summary of Allegations Against Father Michael Bolesta:
Father Michael Bolesta was ordained a priest in 1989 and served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He served in multiple parishes throughout his career. According to the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury Report, he was accused of abusing at least 11 male teenagers between the ages of 16-17 in 1990 through 1991. Father Bolesta was evaluated at St. Luke’s Institute, a notorious pedophile priest treatment facility, and then reassigned as parochial vicar at Saint Agatha–Saint James in West Philadelphia. Among his pastoral duties was to minister at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.
According to the report, the boys all experienced similar one-on-one situations with with Father Bolesta – i.e. constant invitations to go swimming, suggestions by the priest that they swim in the nude and shower with him, games of one-on-one basketball in the pool in which they allege that Father Bolesta touched them all over, and pulled towels off them after they showered and throwing them back in the pool nude, and inappropriate conversations about masturbation. Two boys had been asked to try on shorts and shirts in front of the priest in his bedroom. One was told that the clothes were for Father Bolesta’s cousin; the other that they were for the poor.
The report alleges that Father Bolesta manipulated the boys into swimming with him even when they did not want to do so. He told one boy that he needed him to work, but when the boy arrived at the church, the priest told him there was no work to do, that they were going swimming. The report also alleges that Father Bolesta offered one boy a ride home after work, then insisted on taking him swimming at the indoor pool of a parishioner who was away. The report states that in both situations the boys protested that they did not want to swim because they did not have their bathing suits and that the priest then tried to get them to swim nude.
According to the report, he lured one reluctant boy to swim by telling him that a whole group was going. It ended up being just Father Bolesta. One boy reported that, while standing in the church, Father Bolesta reached between the boy’s legs and grabbed his genitals. Archdiocese memos record that another boy was touched “on his butt” as he fixed an air conditioner. To an adolescent whose mother was in the hospital, Father Bolesta recommended masturbation as a good way to relieve stress.
Father Bolesta was transferred from the parish shortly after the detectives showed up at the church in July 1991. In July 1994 that some Exton parents discovered that Father Bolesta’s new assignment included ministering at Children’s Hospital, and it was not until they complained that action was taken. A father, whose 7th-grade son had been taken swimming by Father Bolesta, called Monsignor Molloy on July 1. He said he was calling on behalf of “parents whose children were in Children’s Hospital (CHOP) and were outraged that Father Bolesta was assigned to a parish responsible for a children’s hospital.” He said he wanted to be able to tell the parents that Father Bolesta would not return to CHOP.
On September 15, 1994, Cardinal Bevilacqua reassigned Father Bolesta to be Chaplain at Holy Redeemer Health System in Huntingdon Valley. Father Bolesta remained in that assignment until January 2, 2004, when he died at the age of 42.
Bolesta’s name was also included on the secret 1994 memo from Wm. Lynn to Monsignor James Molloy summarizing sexual abuse allegations kept in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s secret archives. Bolesta’s name appeared in the section entitled, “Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with Minors with No Conclusive Evidence.” No details about the allegations were included in the memo. .
However, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s internal review board later said that the allegations were credible.
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